Based on the comparative analysis of two exemplary texts (La elegia di madonna Fiammetta, 1343/44 and Il ninfale fiesolano, 1344/46), this Ph.D. thesis dealed with the literary strategies and narrative devices employed to depict love, sexuality and desire. The roles, functions and transformations of the antique love deities received special consideration.


How is the act of falling in love linguistically expressed? Which roles do Amor and Venus play in it? How does desire show itself, and how is the sexual act expressed in literature? Which roles do antique topoi and their transformations play in these narrative processes? Situated within Topoi research group (C-2) Space and Metaphor, questions like these were answered using the method of close readings and a comparative approach in a framework of a theory of metaphors and with special regard to the spatial dimensions of love.


Venus and Amor clearly play an integral role when it comes to dealing with love in Boccaccio’s times. Nevertheless, it could be shown that due to different strategies, neither can they be clearly interpreted as allegorical or personified abstract beings nor are they clearly identifiable as deities. Boccaccio very aptly works with changing perspectives: Depending on the different points of views (e.g. of the text’s characters) Amor and Venus oscillate between presence and absence, between a simple talking figure and a potent god. In this way, different concepts of both love and the love deities emerge. The visio narratives which frame their apparitions create additional ambivalence which shows itself linguistically.

It is primarily tropes and intertextuality – sometimes with a direct link to the love deities, sometimes not – that play important roles in Boccaccio’s poetics of love. He can be shown to have employed antique topoi (e.g. love as fire, war, hunting or enslavement) and texts (e.g. by Ovid or Seneca) in a very creative and witty way: by alluding to them or by citing them directly. This brings about a certain polyphony that can be read as irony, too. Additionally, tropes are elegantly used as a means to negate the figures’ responsibility for their actions.

It became especially clear that where godly figures are concerned, figurative speech is often about the oscillation between metaphoric and concrete meanings. Consequently, metaphors should not be thought of as something static but as a process. Take, for instance, the dynamics between stability and instability, between evidence and ambivalence, between inexpressible and differently-expressible: All these characteristics of polyvalent speech play a fundamental role in the poetics of love.

This Ph.D. thesis was written within the program Ancient Languages and Texts (ALT) of the Berlin Graduate School of Ancient Studies (BerGSAS) and successfully completed in 2018.